Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Two Poems by Jane Commane


Night as rag-soaked petroleum,
the whisper of moon creaks
through the cloud’s machinery.

Something has taken a hold
that leaves you wondering
where it all began –

with milk turning thick-sour
clotted in the bottle, or the soft
gyrations of motorway noise

trapped in lobes of the landscape’s
shell-coils, or with the funeral march
tapping blind on the pipes in the wall.

Childhood rusts, counted on coat hooks
in cupboards-under-stairs, a spark caught
silently as a kiss threatens a dithering island.


Nightfall recast, an angler’s line
falling still into a dark plot
formed invisible –

the soft tremor of breath
sending footprints tumbling
across the lover’s sheets.

Yet the blackbird breaks a chorus
as soft as the egg-blue
spoiled on pavement

Yet the blackbird sings
in the cloud-dense lateness
and tears a hole right through

and the shivering alarm
hacks through the dead wood,
razor resonance.

The half cut moon, deepest neutral
hangs down and the strings are cut.
Illusions falter - we deserve nothing,

with our dreams full of doppelgangers,
unborn declarations, we deserve
nothing less, nothing more than this,

and at the wrong hour, pitch perfect
siren of the heartless unease -
we reset our clocks.

as the sonnet breaks itself, falls to ash,
dawn becomes a vagrant,
missing amongst the refuse of night


Jane Commane runs Nine Arches Press with Matt Nunn, and they also co-edit Under the Radar magazine. She is currently working on a first collection, due out in Summer 2010. She has also recently worked with visitors at the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, and some of the resulting poems can be viewed here.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Statements of Intent (5) - Chris McCabe: "The slip gets mistook for the punt"

You have the ghosts of the past ruffling your shuffle feature, I said to Tom, that's what I like in your work. The problem (one of the problems) with 99% of poetry is that it's set in the past: the past of a person you don't know: a past experience of a person you don't know asking you to try and access their life through a transparent language that aims to be less important than the experience itself. The slip gets mistook for the punt. Brenda said she always made a point of giving poets like this a filofax for Christmas. Poetry, when it surges forward with its great dirigible speech bubble (in the present tense) offers every line as worthy of being the first (or last). Ends only when it runs out of breathe. Offers synchronicity to the speed of everything else around us. The city, the internet, last orders. Jon reads the stuff when he's drunk, on the tube or bus: what's out the window slows down what's on the page, so better to absorb it. I said, that's what I like about you: the human mind has evolved to crave speed as the essense of all artistic experience. Or not artisitic: compared to Houseman no piece of television is slow. Goldenballs turned Jasper Carrott into Melville's Confidence Man. Sarah made a monster out of the weekend broadsheets and Mr Mister tried to make it speak. Like a great poem I'm sure it changes faces whenever I'm not looking. When you go back to one of those great dirigible bubbles it never seems the same. What living thing ever is? Andrew said I was asleep when the monster tried to bite off my tongue.


Chris McCabe has two collections with Salt, The Hutton Inquiry (2005) and Zeppelins (2008). He also has a pamphlet of ludic elegies called The Borrowed Notebook (Landfill).

Thursday, 24 September 2009

One Poem by Chris McCabe

Prac Crit

Your face: a foetus’ sense of Christmas trapped in a Chinese lantern.
White, drained, wan, drawn –
open & expectant to receive,
innocent as can be expected after living with us.

I just wanted to say, the only reason we did it –
the basement traps in Dallas St., Havelock St.,
the BA Honours done waiting to jump from the bin,
the weight of the water tipped from the window,
an unfair game with lasers after we’d drained your batteries,
the Valentines’ card written out to you
not from one, but two lesbian girls –
your heart turned over like the city’s first pink cab –
all your forced gusto for Kronenbourg, a pint of numbers,
Sambuca, Tennants’ Extra – long days at Bar Variety –
the bands, the fans, what’s in, what’s out
(for Delboy, Rodders & Uncle Albert)
Squires on Monday, Tokyo Joe’s Tuesday, Polygon Saturday,
your shoes hidden as you slept – left in the cab mate –
the boot polish on your face as you woke like a bleached minstrel,
the trousers we tried to free you from on your 21st
an intervention from a stranger on Hardman St.,
all the wind-ups – I’ve just been jumped by a gang,
look at my ribs – the rat pellets dissolved in your brew
and photographed as you read MAY CAUSE DEATH
IF CONSUMED, a collapse of a smile still around your lips
as your hair grew for the moon that year
– Moth-head, Bulkhead, a bowling ball of fuzz –
which meant you missed the frisson of my forehead against the bridge
of a cokehead’s nose, a cue flailed,
the ivory option of a pool ball unexpected in the hand
and we ran through Preston
like that was the way to write a dissertation
so how could we joke, the following week
that that was them at the front door to get us back
– grab a bat, a bar, make a stand –
but you were already in the kitchen, the latch stuck,
tugging for your life like a Yale Electrotherapy Case
and when you broke into the yard and onto the escape route we’d made
– adobe wall crumbled under your cons until you hugged the terrace wall –
you turned to expect blood, brawn, brains, a brawl
and saw us pointing, laughing, deranged
in the endorphin rush of how sick we could be to think this up

And the graduate in me said: we only did it because we like you mate

Reprinted with the permission of the author.


Chris McCabe's latest collection of poetry is Zeppelins (published by Salt), which this poem is taken from. There's more by and about Chris McCabe on Gists and Piths.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Mark Goodwin - Blackbird Stir

in my friends’ new house
in their attic between

two big brown bookshelves
randomly packed with poetry

I pass

sleep’s pages through
my head and my head’s

pillow is
a waking word

and the ajar skylight conveys air
as a bird’s opening

of song


at one morning now
in a corner of beak

my entire life liquid
on a blackbird’s tongue

long song-notes hold
a gloss house of sound

in the top of this voice-house
& light rhyming I sleep

I sleep between clear eaves
of soft death graceful

as one immortality’s moment


outside in part-light’s dim glee

outside over Sheffield’s hills
houses’ roofs flutter & flow

roofs like wings & beaks
with sleeping beneath


between two bookshelves
between two halves of beak
between attic roofs

I am in

a blackbird’s dream

Friday, 18 September 2009

Mark Goodwin - On Blhà Bienn, Skye, January 1st 2002

For Nikki & Chris

now snow has no foot      prints but our      own
after      noon light a gold      for ever      plating

silver      instant      jagged Black      Cuillin miles
off amongst cloud in      flated by sun      breath

all      dangers of a lifetime      collected laid      out
as black back      bone terrible &      beauty      full

Bl      ack Cuill      in crinkled      silver seen through
wind-thrust spark      ling snow specks ang      er

patient as glaciation sheet      steel-stone bitten and
bent by      some heav      en's sky      blue edge sun

lays light      years of distance      across a rusted
sword an ero      ded vibrance      spindrift l      ays

                         glitter across our

faces      glinting ice      -clogged lo      chans cling
amongst a p      ile of planet-sp      linters people call

Black      Cuillin Black      Cuillin Skye's smashed
plough      -blade now      turns thickening air's pur

ple & gr      ey ground      over world      sleaks
through sky-rip into vast      black behind every

thing a moon-      drop of frost’s      blood touches
and just      balances      on a motion      less tremble

of ragged at      om-narrow horizon      now snow
has no footprints but our own an untrodden-

on day      ours to write our      pass      age acro      ss
sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss ...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Mark Goodwin - A Worth

December a Chat      sworth’s frost
is private      keep(s)      out we      sneak

through a weak      ness cross      an e
state wall go      through a bro      ken

down gap where      badg      ers pass
and some      people tresp      ass

we enter slants      of late light man
gling in red bracken      sun’s win

ter membranes pla(y)      ting mass
ive fat oaks      golden & ground      glist

ening pale pink where f      rost uttered
water to delicate      solid we      climb

an oak-peopled hillside through nar
ratives escaped from dark      German

ic woods but lit      by late beyond-noon
light in an En      gland dreamt a little

stream’s sounds do      not sing but
stretch      space to a sm      ear of sil

ence we      as our boots are g      ripped-sc
ratched by bracken can’t      hear here or

there      but at least we      just      feel an

edge of silence sli      cing fairy      tales as
hun      ched oaks reach      to      wards our

shapes by being      totally still we      re
lish our in      tru      sion through our minds

and a painting      our brains do      to ground
to make      land      scape’s e      scapes


we leave      a wide Der
went to flow a      way

from us qui      etly
through      dark we

gently climb park
land towards Eden

sor’s spire Lin      dup
Low is allowed to a

public crossed by
an un      fenced B6012

and      in a dark this r
oad rivers headlight

-noise we know      we
will find diffi      cult to

cross Chats      worth
Ho      use is lit

cool blue like      a
digital      copy of its day

time self on      an
horizon a      stag silhou

ette turns      his
head moment      arily

entang      ling his antlers
with bran      ches printed

clear      & black against
sky sun      has just left

Monday, 14 September 2009

Mark Goodwin - Star Frost, A Corie Làir, A Strath Carron

hill-framed      sky’s      cloud
less bl      ue pinks      at its
rim as day’s      ghost be

comes      becomes      towards
real becomes and      fills
world our fingers scor      ch

on boot la      ces & gaiter zips
we are cr      isp between Chri
stmas & New Year’s Eve our

old      selves suddenly spec
tres of some      others in
nocent of      everything other

than      this this      year-end mist
has      wrapped birch twigs hea
ther & rocks with lit grey splin

ters the burn rum      mages un
der skins      of ice pat      iently sear
ching for      gravity pines      wear

frilly jackets of white sky-breath
and one pine      stop      -framed by
hun      dreds of its still likes walks

with      us star-prongs      have gr
own over every High      land detail
of      here here      recreated as cry

stalline copies of fo      rest &
corie & mountains beyond      this
breath      ing & passing      of our

selves through this per      fectly new
world is a yoga of      ground ground
takes us in      to its star shapes      a

robin stops bobs stops bobs be
fore      us leading us      up a
slippery footpath each      bootfall

crinks against master      piece ice
-broaches tra      gically but for bil
lions up      on billions of tiny

delicate sym      metrical shapes wa
ter’s spoken has frozen to we      go
to      beyond beyond      the tree

-line high &      out in      the open ice
-wires nest in      our noses as we
breathe ourselves towards Corie Làir

& Sgor Rhaudh ri      zing above
the corie’s grey frost      -base to frisp
golden rid      ges of crystal      line

desire where sunlight cracks & cra
shes si      lently speckly      -white ptar
migan are invisible but      they are

there and they see      with frost’s
eyes night’s veins waiting just
below a world’s      rim darkness just

lea      king in and free      sing
into this      bright we are warm      as
our bones burn      like frost I want

to stay

still in this      high light stay
here as a solid vow
el      a crystal man      an


Saturday, 12 September 2009

Mark Goodwin - Lit Lichen, Tŷ Uchaf

we walk the track to Tŷ Uchaf

our Petzls solve
the dark around us so
we are surrounded by
a close cool bubble
of blue light

we are clothed
in a technological veil

we move
our bubble along so
keyhole sized portions
of a landscape repeatedly
develop and then

away behind us and just

before Tŷ Uchaf
black & haw
-thorn forms spook
from inkiness into solidity
their plant-silence greets us

diode-lit lichen clings
tangled like fibrous silvery-green snow
to the convolutions
of their spikes & branches

it is a faint Christmas-ness
grown thick & Pagan

and balanced in the lichen’s
green rinds glistening droplets watch
like numerous mouse eyes

we turn
the key in Tŷ Uchaf’s lock
and we feel

in our minds behind
us (in the dark) the points
of thorns clogged
(or clothed?)
by frothy strands & splodges

of lichenous thoughts


Mark Goodwin's first full collection, Else, was published by Shearsman in 2008. 'Lit Lichen, Tŷ Uchaf' is the first of five poems that Gists and Piths will be publishing over the next week or so.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Two Poems by Matt Merritt


World broken by countless horizons. No light or sound
flows over them. Swifts scythe rents in the present

momentarily, air crackles and closes in their wake. Wait
while wind harps on wires. Symphony of electricity

and shadow plays behind suburban curtains.
Mirror-fronted new-builds placed face-to-face

make infinity, the hollow earth wracked by rumour
of alternate existences. Walls between lives thin

to near nothing. Suspect the survival of stations
never stopped at, dayglo line-workers in on the secret,

while trying to map points of divergence, signposts
to each new reality. Back up on the street,

late arrivals resonate the heart’s cage. Still
they keep coming, wiping the dreams from their eyes.

Variations On A Theme By JA Baker


walk from east to west
by hidden ways

sun at your back
looking for the places
they might be

pause at the corner
of time and space
and expect
no/any thing


two possibles mid-morning
then fuck all
all day


fire-eyed owls
cling to contours
afraid to let go of the earth

but test yourself
against the wind

first select
            the correct
density of air

perfect angle
of attack and hang

then notice how every
incline smoothes away

and all foreshortening
is undone


so many times
he has described this indistinct

knowing all the gaps

the rough margins
and secret places

the points at which
it is as well to go on
            as turn back

he has mapped the shape
and compass of lives
the heavy progress of days

beaten the bounds
of possibility
wearing his divinity


prey to your imaginings
in the owl-song hours

a long low murmur
            slow beneath the skin
thrills the thicket of sleep
sends you out

beyond sound and sight
bare tops of trees
knotted with life
by first fingers of light

a tether pulled tight
then sprung

as some wild hope
puts up another
heart in hiding
and clear-eyed
races it home


Matt Merritt's collection Troy Town was published by Arrowhead Press in 2008. He also has a personal blog, entitled Polyolbion, which you can read here.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Statements of Intent (4) - Tom Chivers: "Hone your ego on my fist"

Firstly, let me apologise for the video; for its specific darkness. Of course, this poem could be intoned and interpreted in a number of different ways. I hope there is something comic – darkly comic, I suppose – about it. Sometimes when I perform it, the final couplet gets a laugh. Occasionally someone is offended. The poem hovers around a violent core, with pseudo-allusions to the Whitechapel Murders of 1888.

Multiplicity is very important to me. In the title piece of my collection, How To Build A City, I say: ‘I do not believe in irony, just multiple levels of recognition. A democratic onion, if you will.’ (Note to self: must stop quoting from own book.) Alongside and dependent on the multiple is the notion of the SHIFT. Language in constant flux, relentlessly rewriting itself. Tonal juxtapositions, fault-lines, fissures. All terrible postmodern, I’m afraid. Sorry. My foundation influences are all masters of the shift in different ways, like Barry MacSweeney, who writes: ‘I am 16. / I am a Tory. My // vision of the future represents / no people. // Celeriac priesthood offers up my rifle to the sky.’ My use of ‘celeriac’ in ‘This is yogic’ is no homage. I just like celeriac.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Simon Turner - Tears in the Fence 50 @ The Bell

Saturday September 5th, 2009

1. The Journey
A clean unbroken ride on the Met to Moorgate - though not smooth: the train rattling and jumping along the tracks, matching the wonderfully variegated and fussy scenery, the weed-tangled wreckage hiding behind tenements and semis, the unspoken wilds of London - though there we halted. A fire at Aldgate, all options closed. So the last pellet of the journey was on foot, though not far, the stations crammed close together here, like Starbucks in Seattle. Great to see a corner of London I don't know: a lot of character here, the older buildings in strange uneasy conversation with wideboy shimmer of the steel and glass financial megaliths screwing the gauzy skyline.

2. The Venue
The Bell, an East End pub of genuine distinction. There's a stuffed bear's head - I couldn't tell if it was real or not - smoking a roll-up behind the bar, and the whole place is decked out with more dark wooden beams than the pages of Moby-Dick. Plus they have Leffe on tap, which is the nectar of the gods. Or at least, the Belgians, who invented Tintin and chips, so they're pretty close to divinity in my book. As I get older I'm coming to believe strongly in a kind of selective modernity: up to the minute technology has its place in, say, medical research - leeches and hot cupping are so last season - but when it comes to pubs, the best advice is to leave well alone. Character wins out over stainless steel polish and Habitat furniture every time.

Great to see lots of people I've mostly known in the abstract (human personality reduced to email exchanges SAEs) in these surroundings, too: people George and I have published (Nathan Thompson, Andrew Bailey, Tom Chivers, James Wilkes), and people who've been kind enough to publish me (including David Caddy, Tears in the Fence's head honcho). Plus lots of writers - Jeremy Hilton, Kim Taplin, Nathan Thompson (again) whose work I have read and admired. What was notable was a genuine sense of community. This could be romanticism, exuberance brought on through a mild haze of Belgian beer, but it is one of the things that drew me to Tears in the Fence to begin with: that sense of a community of writers, working in disparate fields and modes, but all with a positive energy directed towards pushing at the boundaries, working to expand what poetry can do.

3. The Readings
Only a partial list, but the standouts for me were:

David Caddy, speaking about the history of Tears in the Fence (surprised to learn that it generated some negative feedback from the conservative end of the poetry world in its early days, and even made the pages of 'Pseud's Corner' on a number of occasions: that's one of my ambitions in life), and his own editorial remit. Essentially, the magazine's about eclecticism, not dogmatism, and I suspect that's one of the reasons it's survived.

Brian Hinton, reading a lovely evocation of a cricket match, which was also a celebration of David Caddy (apparently, DC is a tough and tenacious cricket player).

Ian Brinton, giving lovely oracular readings of Charles Tomlinson, Ed Dorn and JH Prynne, embedded in a potted history of the transatlantic conversations that formed much of the context of the production of some really exciting work on both sides of the pond in 60s and 70s, of which the three poems he read were only the tip of the iceberg.

Hannah Silva, reading-performing a piece which I can only describe as a head-on collision between Bob Cobbing and Alice Oswald. Okay, I'm sure there are other ways to describe her work, but I'm lazy, and I'm writing at top speed, and any effort to slow down and give some more careful consideration to my words or thoughts will probably bring on a short-term block that'll completely kill off this post. The main body of the piece was a kind of sound-sculpture, mixing Silva's live voice with field recordings, and pre-recorded overdubs (I think) of her voice, the whole brew collapsing into a ticking, heaving swamp of sound. Silva's work is extremely exciting, representing as it does a marriage of performance poetics, and more 'academic' tendencies in modern poetry. The results were/are invigorating.

4. Life Without Buildings
I recommended this band to Andrew during the day, as I think they were one of the most wonderful things ever to happen to the world of music. Just to give you a context as to why I've posted this.

5. The Verdict
Tears in the Fence has lasted 50 issues. That's impressive work. I hope it lasts another 50. My co-editor, during his own reading on the day, stated that he felt the magazine was something of a spiritual home for him, and I would concur with that sentiment. We both hope the Fence runs and runs.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Simon Turner on Tom Chivers on Barry MacSweeney

I've just returned from London, after attending the Tears in the Fence 50th (issue) birthday (more on that later in the week), and thought I'd cap off the weekend by singing the praises - and plugging the iPlayer availability - of Tom Chivers' Radio 4 programme 'The Poet of Sparty Lea', which looked at the life and poetry of Barry MacSweeney. Basically, I thought it was great, focusing as it did chiefly on the poems, with recordings of MacSweeney himself interspersed with other readers, though if I had a criticism, it was probably a matter of length. Half an hour didn't feel like quite enough time, and the poetic context of MacSweeney's work was skated over in favour of the biographical. It could be simply that a discussion of where MacSweeney's work fits in relation to the British Poetry Revival, the Poetry Wars, the work of the Cambridge School, and other currents (both radical and conservative) in British post-war poetry, in conjunction with a consideration of his own technical innovations, would have made for too heavy listening on a Sunday afternoon. What matters most, of course, is that it encourages people to return to, or discover, MacSweeney's poetry, which is some of the most exciting produced in these isles in the last 50 years. Thankfully, Tom avoids such gushingly hyperbolic terminology in his own appraisal of MacSweeney, and the programme's all the better for it. Listen and enjoy. Oh, and if the BBC are reading and happen to be looking for someone to do a similar piece on Roy Fisher, my fees are five potato pies an hour, plus expenses.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Three Poems by Matt Nunn

Classical music is well like for spazzy retards.

Wot I wrote when I wuz asked in accusing
By the parrot on the teachers’ hunch
About wot I reckoned to the mong music
Lilting like from a weaving of the echo of the stars
From out the rackety old gob of the record player –

“Beethoven is a bender”,

Made His Majesty Sir ye olde right venerable tosspot,
The headmaster of our school
“Our Lady with her head down the toilet”
Creak tweedily with so much well furious
That his guide dog plopped a pup straight
Out of his hole in fright,
As he telled me in a voice stained by Sapphoism and chamber music
That I was the perennial puke beneath the sawdust on the hall floor.

But it ent my fault
The angelic choir that breathes the theology of beauty
Inside my bonce has been punched out
By the brutality of surviving,

Cuz it just dunt pay to let on,

Though I know the perfect craft of the flight
Of the word lepidopterist
And that music is the joy of the kiss of the eternal sunrise,

Cuz at this school on the cusp of combustion
Of farting itself silly with the death stench of our horizons

It is more well cleverer to be stooped.

With Myrtle walking through a headfuck as she twangs.

Last eve as you crept between
the contours of my dreams
humming expectantly with
the first sugar-rush la-la’s
of a love song
and laid me out delirious
with a slobbering lovesome bomb,
you cut me with the blunt of your sharp knife

and made what remains of the sun
blush with the blood of your beginning

and my obliviously hidden point painful and obvious.

mogwai music

heaven is bound and heavy with bruised gospel light
enlivening dereliction by symphonic waves
of crashing youth generating genius electricity
flowing through x-rays back catalogues
inspiring jesus off searching for the right ripple
to turn on by sipping jagged metallic soul from a
soup bowl of a million snuffed out industrial suns


Matt Nunn's third collection of poetry, Sounds in the Grass, is forthcoming from Nine Arches Press, and a short story collection is also in the pipeline. He lives and breathes Birmingham.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Three Poems by Edward Cottrell


Stop thinking about your death and begin
              forgetting you have
slept dreaming a delicate expanse to wake
              whacking against.

Until something or other is revealed, scratch
              At these                            , failing that –
get back on the bottle: This time tomorrow, this time
              tomorrow, this time – .

I think we should just give up now, don’t you?
              I am a visitor                            here,
what advice would you give to such a visitor                            here?
              There there? There there?

Pocket Calculator

The numbers are wrong on this old calculator,
inside it thinks less and less
and the answers never, held upside down, forbid me to age.

It has worn yellow pinstripes underneath
the blind fading displays, out
of character, as a museum curator pocketing wet stones

from a fountain. The sky is falling, always
it will land on its feet.
One day the dogs will fall and we shall drown, which is just how we like it.

Steel Dog

Checker-veined leaves, green and red
great with sharp cuts,
the bloody
fingers biting down a sheared can.
Steel dog, I can hear the sea
dawning on my reluctance
from a tin-ear maraca,
home made & just now, married.
Let us huddle in the mess.